HISTORY of EL HATO LITERACY CENTER
Years before Asociación Juntos Podemos was founded, the charity organization Las Manos de Christine began doing amazing work helping the public school in the village of El Hato. The public school there has historically lacked sufficient funding to fully equip El Hato children for the future and Las Manos often jumped in to help with unfunded needs. They ran an English teaching program staffed by a revolving cast of visiting interns. They fundraised and built a preschool building, a library, a fence around the school grounds, and other needed construction work. They helped solve water shortages. They hired a teacher to help those students who were falling behind. The list goes on.
Unfortunately, starting in 2017, Las Manos de Christine was no longer able to continue to provide that level of support. They decided to scale back their programs considerably, focusing mainly on providing scholarships to hardworking students who otherwise couldn't afford to continue going to school.
Several of the founders of Asociación Juntos Podemos had been heavily involved in the previous work of Las Manos de Christine and did not want El Hato to lose that resource. That's when we started the El Hato Literacy Center to carry on a portion of the literacy work of Las Manos. Then, in 2018, a group of Guatemalan and foreign volunteers founded Asociación Juntos Podemos and folded the El Hato Literacy Center and the Garden of Hope into it.
Asociación Juntos Podemos hired the Las Manos teacher who was helping the children who were falling behind. The El Hato Literacy Center, located in the library of the public school, began teaching library classes in the morning and providing tutoring in the afternoon. And we also helped with all sorts of school activities. For example, we fundraised to provide music lessons for interested students. Las Manos de Christine again jumped in and started providing another tutor to help in the afternoon.
Then the pandemic hit. Schools in Guatemala closed and no one was allowed to run any kind of activity in the El Hato school. After months of frustration, sitting on the sidelines, in January 2021 we couldn't wait any longer to resume helping El Hato's children. Together with two other NGOs, Las Manos de Christine and SERniña, we rented a house in El Hato so that we could once again tutor El Hato's students.
During the pandemic, schooling in El Hato ground to a halt. The school was closed. Virtual learning was impossible in a place where people could barely afford to make a phone call, let alone buy a tablet and pay for the internet. The public school teachers gave their students work packets to do at home and to hand back in at the end of each month. But many families were not equipped to help their children learn the material. Many parents had little or no formal education, and also had to work hard hard just to put food on the table. As a consequence, our tutoring schedule filled up immediately! The Literacy Center teachers and students donned their masks, socially distanced, and got down to the work of teaching and learning new things!
Now, in 2023, the El Hato public school is finally opening again. But the school needs all the space it can get and we've decided that we can better serve the community by continuing to work off-campus. We've rented an even bigger house near the school so that we can offer our free tutoring services and library to even more students than ever!
Las Manos de Christine has continued to provide a tutor to help out on most days. Together, the two teachers are helping El Hato's children reach their potential.